From Snoqualmie to nuclear subs, Zetec builds inspection tech

The Snoqualmie-based company builds ultrasound and eddy current testing tech.

From humble beginnings in an Issaquah barn, the now Snoqualmie-based Zetec has been on an upward trajectory for the past 50 years.

Zetec is an engineering and manufacturing company that makes testing tools and software used by a variety of customers including the U.S. Navy and airplane manufacturer Boeing. Zetec president Wayne Wilkinson said the company focuses on creating eddy current and ultrasound technology.

“Basically what we do is look for flaws in materials either in the surface or inside of tubes,” he said.

Eddy current technology sends an electrical current through metal and measures the consistency of an object, sometimes up to six feet from the surface. Ultrasound is used to inspect composite materials by shooting sound energy through a material. Together, the two technologies are used to inspect a wide range of products, from nuclear tubes inside submarines to power plants. The company designs everything associated with their testing technology, from designing the software and components to manufacturing custom delivery devices, like robots used inside nuclear power plants.

“The instruments vary based on the application and the industry, and whether they’re being used in a portable environment,” Wilkinson said.

Zetec was founded in 1968 in a barn just south of Issaquah, and its first contracts were with the Navy and for inspecting steam power plants. As the company grew, it expanded to several offices in Issaquah, but by 2005, Wilkinson said it was time to consolidate into a single facility in Snoqualmie. The company has a large manufacturing facility in Snoqualmie, which doubles as the company’s U.S. and world headquarters, but Zetec has offices in Canada, Europe and Asia.

Zetec currently has about 150 employees in Snoqualmie, some 75 in Quebec and another 70 around the world. The offices abroad are generally sales and support staff while the manufacturing and design happen in North America. While Zetec employees occasionally do inspections with their products, they generally stick to manufacturing. About half of the company’s business comes from the U.S.

“Basically they’re testing material to see if it has a flaw before it is put into a product, or testing it when it is in service,” Wilkinson said.

However, Zetec has been particularly successful in South Korea, where Wilkinson says they have a nearly 100-percent market share in steam generator inspection. Oil and gas corporations, as well as NASA, are also customers. According to the business website Owler, Zetec has an estimated revenue of $63 million with competitors including the U.K.-based Deritend and Bavarian company PRUECHNIK. Zetec was acquired in 2002 by Roper Technologies and operates as an independent company under the Roper corporation.

As for sticking around the Pacific Northwest as they expanded, Wilkinson said Puget Sound is filled with talented software development and manufacturing workers. Zetec pulls from various disciplines, including mechanical and electrical engineers, software developers and sales employees.

“It’s rich from that perspective, and I think it’s still a fairly cost effective place to manufacture in,” Wilkinson said.

As Zetec hits the 50-year milestone, Wilkinson said he hopes to keep growing the company both in North America and around the world. There’s a lot of opportunity to expand in Asia, he said, as well as continuing to diversify into aerospace.

“We’re in an exciting time for our growth and our future, and the 50-year milestone is an impressive milestone for any company,” he said.

Zetec was founded in Issaquah 50 years ago and moved to Snoqualmie in 2005. Its facility in Snoqualmie has both design and manufacturing capabilities. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Zetec was founded in Issaquah 50 years ago and moved to Snoqualmie in 2005. Its facility in Snoqualmie has both design and manufacturing capabilities. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

More in Business

Local business benefits Issaquah food bank, other charities

Just Between Friends Issaquah will host its semi-annual consignment sale benefiting local charities.

OfferUp founder Nick Huzar makes customer safety a core pillar

Bellevue-based CEO wanted a simpler solution to his own problems

Despite interest rate approach, real estate ticking onward

A real estate snap shot from John L. Scott Real Estate.

Premera awards $3.3 million in community grants focusing on behavioral health

Several Eastside organizations will benefit from the funding.

Eastside tech companies Smartsheet, OfferUp, Apptio face challenging 2019

Here are a handful of companies from the Eastside that will be interesting to watch in 2019.

Tech to continue driving housing market in 2019

A real estate snapshot from John L. Scott.

Inside the lobby at the Google office in Kirkland. Photo courtesy of Runner1928
Google, Facebook to pay more than $400,000 to Washington state in campaign finance cases

Both are in the top 10 largest campaign finance recoveries in Washington state history.

Entering the winter real estate market

Over the last five months, we’ve seen more inventory than we have in years

PSE natural gas bills will be lower this winter

Puget Sound Energy residential natural gas customers will see lower energy bills… Continue reading

Costco expanding its Issaquah headquarters

The wholesale retailer’s land use application was recently approved by the city.

Detox for your body and mind

Dr. Allison Apfelbaum is a naturopathic primary care doctor in Woodinville.